This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.
UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 HARARE 002062
STATE FOR AF/S NSC FOR SENIOR AFRICA DIRECTOR JFRAZER USDOC FOR 2037 DIEMOND PASS USTR FLORIZELLE LISER STATE PASS USAID FOR MARJORIE COPSON
E. O. 12958: N/A TAGS: EAGR ECON ETRD EINV PGOV ZI SUBJECT: Will Land Reform Ever Work?
Ref: Harare 2024
1. (SBU) Summary: After the Presidential Land Review Committee's failure to prescribe solutions to land reform's shortcomings (ref), many on the ground are wondering if Zimbabwe will ever have a vibrant agrarian sector again. There is still a certain measure of self- delusion - white farmers hoping to return to their farms, the Government hoping that productivity levels will return. Yet with each passing month, the challenge of sorting out land reform becomes greater. To date, neither the GOZ nor opposition MDC has articulated a strategy to make land reform work, perhaps a measure of how intractable the controversy has become. End Summary.
2. (SBU) There are three important issues that a serious land reform reappraisal would probably take into account, all skirted by the Land Review Committee:
- Compensation for Dispossessed White Farmers. While these 4,000 families are an insignificant constituency, we consider a compensation settlement the only path to reinstitution of title deed, and by extension, property rights and rule-of-law. The GOZ's expropriation zeal has scared off all but a dribble of foreign direct investment. Almost every donor country has some foreign nationals who suffered uncompensated and extra-judicial expropriation. While no one expects white farmers to win full compensation, most farmers would probably settle for cents on the dollar, perhaps through future agricultural export revenue.
- A Working Agrarian Model. There are scattered success stories, but resettled farmers as a group are doing poorly. In general, they lack funds for inputs and irrigation; occasionally, they lack commitment or skills. For the large-scale (A2) farmers, restoration of title deed would enable them to borrow against their land. Farms would exchange hands in the marketplace, eventually falling to the willing and able. We have doubts that small-scale (A1) farmers will ever move far beyond subsistence levels, similar to those of farmers in traditional communal areas (42 percent of Zimbabwe's farmland) unless state ownership of land is revised. Furthermore, the head of irrigation at the Ministry of Agriculture's Agritex told us he has been unable to identify a model that would enable multiple resettled farmers to use collectively irrigation systems formerly owned by single farms. In a sector where access to irrigation separates the productive from the dependent, this is a fatal flaw in the GOZ's redistribution scheme and one that would have to be rethought to make a working model. The GOZ may have to create incentives for small- scale farmers to relocate -- with better support -- to unused lands, leaving fewer settlers on former commercial farms.
- Elite Abuses. Here we refer only to so-called VIP beneficiaries -- those who wielded political clout to seize houses and land, a moral and accountability issue for a future government. (The GOZ's preliminary and unpublished audit of VIP abuses at www.zwnews.com/audit.doc cites numerous examples.)
3. (SBU) These are tough matters for any government. Even land reform's staunch critics will find it easier to be descriptive than prescriptive at this stage. For its part, the opposition MDC has not articulated a plan to address compensation, competence and cronyism in land reform. In its not yet released "Restart" blueprint, the MDC stresses that courts must religiously uphold the rights of existing titleholders (i.e., the white and other farmers) but calls it "unacceptable" that "the commercial white community owns the majority of the land." How to reconcile the contradiction? A new "Land Commission" would redistribute, or return to white farmers, the seized land - no discussion of how to set criteria, compensate former owners, establish a sustainable business model, etc. On paper, not much of an alternative to the "National Land Board" that President Mugabe's Land Review Committee envisions.
4. (SBU) The chaotic and unproductive results of the land redistribution exercise deprive Mugabe of a desperately- sought crowning achievement for his presidency, one reason he appealed to the United Nations Secretary General last week for land reform assistance. For the U.S., the bungled experiment means Zimbabweans' dependence on our food donations continues - while arable land, irrigation equipment and farming skills are wasted. This may be land reform's greatest tragedy. The donor community could have erected irrigation systems for 240,000 hectares solely by redirecting 2002's food assistance. That would equal the amount of farmland put under irrigation throughout Rhodesia/Zimbabwe's entire history. With a working land reform model in place, this country could once again feed itself.